The recent idea of Northfield’s plan for Accessory Dwelling Units is for affordable housing. The Planning Commission wants to loosen the rules to allow for more opportunities. Commission member, Betsey Buckheit, compared St. Paul and Minneapolis saying that Minneapolis took a broad approach, “to allow them in many zoning districts, to allow them on a detached garage or on a house or freestanding and really removed a lot of regulations, and a lot of them got built. St. Paul took a very different tack in saying they could only be built in certain areas and had a lot of regulations and, I believe, one got built”. According to Minneapolis Community Planning and Development, between December 2014 and February 2018, between 34-38
ADUs have received zoning approval each year. Through Feb. 2018, Ninety-four of the 109 applications have also received a building permit or have completed construction. Compared to St. Paul, which passed their limited ordinance in late 2016 and has resulted in only one ADU receiving approval for construction. While regulations are one part of it, the cost of ADUs is another that hasn’t been discussed in the Northfield meetings. Mpls Councilor Andrew Johnson says the ADUs are between $150k and $200k. Buckheit says the housing supply is very tight in Northfield and believes this may be a way to help alleviate the problem. She said it’s a “small tool” that’s tapping the “private market to supply a little bit more housing to ease the supply”. The Planning Commission, she said, wanted to give people a 1000 sq ft, or if you had a really big house on a large piece of property, that could be proportional. The confusion was that the code didn’t clarify the footprint vs the total living size. She added that they simply wanted to remove the requirement for parking, not that people couldn’t add it. As for compatibility to the surrounding areas, they removed that too. The commission also wants to remove the requirement that these properties be owner/occupied. Years ago that led to an ordinance reducing the allowed rentals to 20% per block because of how the rentals were cared for. Buckheit said they want to exempt ADUs from that code. But they can’t do that just be the zoning code, the Council would have to amend the rental code. She added that we already have blighted property ordinances that could be enforced and she doesn’t think that would be a huge problem. That question might be better posed to those neighbors and law enforcement. This topic will be coming back to council in a work session on April 9th. The City will be asking the Community for your input. As it is, you can tell them what you think by calling your Mayor, Representative and City Hall. The ADUs must have a cement pad and their own water and sewer.
Council adds buffering to 1 MW solar garden proposed
A 1 MW solar garden is proposed for the far northwest corner of Northfield at 320th and Garrett. Nokomis Energy doing business as Chub Garden LLC is planning a 3700 to 4,000 panel garden on about 5 acres. The CSG, community solar garden will deliver 1.8 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean, local energy annually. They need a Conditional Use Permit. Mayor Pownell said, concerns from Councilors were drainage and buffering between residents and the solar garden. Properties are approximately ¼ to ½ a mile away. Additional buffering, or screening, was added to the resolution along the west side. The area is zoned agriculture right now. The area is where the City has planned for decades to put some sort of commercial business. Council voted 4 to 1 in favor of the CUP. It now goes back to Staff to approve a stormwater management plan and some other administrative issues before it’s built.
CAC Super Shelf ribbon cutting
Last year,Northfield’s Community Action Center CAC distributed over 540,000 pounds of food through the Food Shelf. And rescued over 249,000 pounds of food from local retailers. They received a grant last year to become a SuperShelf, allowing for more perishable food! Join them on tomorrow at noon for a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.